Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: Harper Teen
Number of Pages: 300
Advertised Age Level: Young Adult
Age and Grade of Main Character(s): 14 years at the beginning of the story/Freshman in high school
Language: no profanity
Sex: kissing and allusions to sex
Drug/Alcohol Use: main character and his girlfriend drink vodka after a dance, one character has a drug addicted parent
Violence: allusions to sexual assault but no actual events, main character attacks a drug pusher when his girlfriend is threatened
Social Issues: bullying and mean behaviour, using appearances to judge others, parental neglect, drug addiction, kidnapping, witchcraft and magic
Suggested Movie Grade: PG
Premise: Kyle Kingsbury is golden. He’s fantastically good-looking, rich, spoiled, and cares only about himself. He also possesses a mean streak that he likes to unleash on the ugly “losers” at his exclusive private prep school. When he makes the mistake of targeting a self-professed witch as his next victim, she determines to teach him a lesson. She transforms his exterior appearance to mirror his internal ugliness. With fur covering his body, fangs and claws, Kyle has become an honest to goodness beast. The witch gives him two years to undo the spell, two years in which he has to find someone that he truly loves and who loves him in return. Only then can he prevent remaining a beast forever.
Ashamed by his son’s hideous appearance, Kyle’s father shuts him away in a multi-storied brownstone with only a live-in maid and a blind tutor for company. At first Kyle feels only pity for himself, but slowly he begins to search for beauty in the things around him to make up for all of his own ugliness. When a drug addict breaks into Kyle’s beloved greenhouse, Kyle recognizes the man as the father of a girl he’d gone to school with. Ashamed at what he’s about to do but becoming desperate for a chance to find love, he bargains with the would-be-thief who agrees to send his daughter, Lindy, to live in the brownstone with Kyle.
As would be expected, Lindy at first resents Kyle – who now goes by the name Adrian since the old Kyle is gone forever – even as his feelings for her become warm and loving. But over the course of several months, he earns her trust and then her friendship. But time is running out, and he’s afraid he may never be able to earn her love and break the curse.
Potential Points of Concern: At the beginning of the story, Kyle is very mean to anyone he deems beneath him, which is most people. He also expresses misogynistic tendencies.
Kyle’s father is the epitome of neglectful, absentee parents. He buys Kyle things to make up for ignoring him. He all but abandons Kyle after Kyle is transformed into the beast and cannot be cured.
Kyle and his date drink Absolut vodka after a dance and while not described at all, it is implied they have sex.
A witch transforms Kyle into his beastly form and even later, after Kyle has changed for the good, is unable to break the spell. The witch gives Kyle an enchanted mirror that allows him to see anyone he wants at any time.
Lindy’s father is a drug addict who abuses her both emotionally and physically. He uses her to bargain his way out of trouble when he’s caught breaking into Kyle’s house, promising that Lindy will live with Kyle having no idea what Kyle’s intentions are.
Lindy is attacked by a drug pusher who implies that since she can’t pay him with cash he will rape her. Kyle is able to stop him before anything can happen.
Age Appropriateness: 12 and up
Note: The book has been made into a movie which is scheduled to be released in March of 2011. The movie has aged the character of Kyle Kingsbury and has been given a rating of PG-13. As of the date of this posting, I cannot evaluate the age-appropriateness of the movie as compared to the book.